A Brother’s Plea

VWB Cameron M. Bailey
Deputy of the Grand Master District 17 F&AM of Washington

Like you, I knelt before the Altar of God and while there I made a Sacred and Solemn vow.  I vowed to hasten to the relief of any Freemason who gave a certain sign or uttered certain words.  This vow wasn’t limited by the length of my Cable Tow, or by any other factor beyond my own probable death.  I, like you, am given no choice but to respond.  Doing so is my most Sacred duty as a Freemason.

Well, in all my years in Freemasonry, I’ve never seen that sign given, nor heard those words uttered, except during a Degree, or when practicing for one.

I did however hear them spoken this past week though.  On national television.  I imagine that all of you have heard them by now too.

It was a plea, from a Brother, begging for Brotherhood.

I knew, instantly, that we must, collectively and as individuals respond.

I didn’t however, know how to do so, and in everything I was able to read about it, I saw that clearly everyone else was as confused about how we could respond as I was.  Clearly, we as Freemasons want to rush to our Brothers aid, but we don’t know how.

I have given this a tremendous amount of thought since hearing those words, and I hope that my thoughts are valuable to you.

What we know is that the Brother in question is from a legitimate and Recognized Grand Lodge.  His claim upon us is valid.  What I don’t know, is what his particular rank may be.  I’ve heard everything from DDGM to PGM.  For purposes of this newsletter, I’ll refer to him as Brother.  Not to offend, but simply out of my own ignorance as to what his full title might be.

Beyond that, I think I should point out that my Obligation, our Obligation to him is the same, it matters not if he is his Jurisdiction’s newest Master Mason, or their Grand Master.

This Brothers utterance of those specific words are in many ways like “A Shot Heard Round The World.”  Freemasons everywhere, Freemasonry as a whole, will either heed his plea with real action, or we will prove that our declining numbers and influence has rendered our Fraternity ineffective and powerless.

Our Brother has given us an extreme challenge.

It is however a challenge that Freemasonry is uniquely suited to answer.  This Brothers plea was against hatred, intolerance, and violence.  As the only organization in the world that seeks to unite all men into a single Brotherhood, irrespective of national origin, political creed, religious belief, color, and all other manufactured divisions, Freemasonry can stand against hatred and violence.  Freemasonry can and does teach the Brotherhood Of Man, Under The Fatherhood Of God.  Currently we teach this doctrine of Light to ourselves, now we must teach it to the wider world as well.

It is this teaching that makes Freemasonry, in the words of Albert Pike, “The Great Peace Society In The World.”

To head this Brothers plea, his plea that we all reach out and hold each other with the S.:G.: of the L.:P.: we must take action.  Serious action.

In my view, the first thing we must do, as Freemasons, is expunge racism from within our own ranks.  I am proud to be a member of the very first Grand Lodge in this nation to recognize the truth that a man of color can be a Freemason.  That action taken by our Grand Lodge so long ago didn’t hold, but we can be proud that our Grand Lodge tried.

I am also however ashamed that there still exist a small handful of United States Grand Lodges that practice racism, and prove that they do so by their refusal to recognize Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Racism is the real reason that some Grand Lodges don’t recognize Prince Hall.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with nonsensical notions such as Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction that isn’t even practiced in other countries.  Ignorance fuels racism and an institution that teaches the importance of Knowledge, Learning, and Light can not allow such ignorance to exist within our ranks.

It is my sincere hope, that much sooner than later, Grand Lodges around the world take steps to no longer Recognize that handful of Grand Lodges in the United States that refuse to recognize Prince Hall as Legitimate Freemasonry.

Those Grand Loges should not be Recognized as practicing Legitimate Freemasonry, because they are not in actuality doing so.  Any Grand Lodge that refuses to take an otherwise fully qualified Brother by the hand of Brotherhood because of his racial origins is not practicing Freemasonry.

If we do not purge these rogue Grand Lodges from our ranks, the rest of us will someday soon loose any legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and eventually our own membership.

If current Standards of Recognition will not allow racist Grand Lodges within the United States to be purged from the rolls of those that are Recognized, then the Standards must be changed.

Secondly, we must, each of us, as individual Freemasons, tone down our political rhetoric.

I do not care what side of the political fence you are on.  It is not proper, or Masonic to refer to the President of the United States as a Traitor.  To refer to the Republican nominee as a Lunatic, or the Democratic nominee as a Bitch.

Those insane and radical comments do nothing but fuel the division this nation is suffering under, and that division is what is driving the violence we see every day.  Not all young black men are thugs.  Not all police officers are racists.  Not all Trump supporters hate people from Mexico, and not all Clinton supporters excuse criminal activity.  In fact, in all of these cases, only a tiny minority are or do.

You would never know it from the rhetoric.  The rhetoric paints everything, and everyone with a single broad brush.  Those who repeat such rhetoric, as if it were fact, do nothing but proclaim their own ignorance to the world.

As Freemason’s, let’s not do that.  If we have done it, let’s stop.  If we haven’t, let’s make sure that we don’t start.  Let us recognize that the overwhelming majority of people, on the Right and on the Left are good people who want nothing more but a better future for their children.

Let us also be smart enough to recognize that artificial divisions within our society are extremely profitable for our political class.  You can trust me on this, I am after all a member of that political class, I understand how it works.

It doesn’t matter what the issue is, political groups just want to divide society into two halves.  They manufacture an issue, get folks all outraged about it, and then raise shockingly huge sums of money to ‘fight’ whatever it may be.

Take the ‘transgender bathroom issue’ that was such a hot topic earlier this year.  It wasn’t a real issue, I assure you that transgender folks have been using the bathroom that matches their appearance for decades and decades.  All of the sudden though, it was an ISSUE, there was OUTRAGE, and millions upon millions of dollars were raised by both sides so that they could ‘fight’ to ‘protect’ whatever side one happened to be on.

These nonsensical ‘issues’ are created by the political class, simply to create outrage, because that translates to dollars.  Those who create these ‘issues’ don’t see folks who give them money as people to protect, they see them as pawns.

Don’t be a pawn, and don’t post hateful rhetoric that divides our nation and our world when we should be working to unite it.

Freemasonry teaches the Brotherhood of Man, Under the Fatherhood of God.  By doing so it unites men of every nation, every political affiliation, every religious belief.

Let us, as individual Freemasons stand against division and against violence.  Let us stand for Brotherhood and unity.

Our individual stand might not be very powerful, but our families and our friends may learn from our example, and may start to stand with us as well.

Even more importantly, if millions upon millions of Freemasons all stand together, stand against violence in all its forms, stand for peace, stand in opposition to discord and for unity.  We will, as a Fraternity make a difference.

We will have heeded our Brother’s call.

 

VWB Cameron M. Bailey
Deputy of the Grand Master District 17 F&AM of Washington

Thinking of Running for an Elected Position?

Brethren of the Jurisdiction of Washington: Are you interested in putting your name forward for consideration as our next Junior Grand Warden or Grand Secretary? How about serving on the Grand Lodge Building Association or maybe as a Trustee of Washington Masonic Charities? If so, you will want to attend an informational session being hosted by the Grand Master at the Grand Lodge Office on Sunday, August 7th, from Noon to 3:00. This will be a great opportunity to find out about each position in great detail, the expected commitment of personal time & resources, and to ask questions. If you are married, you should also bring your spouse as your decision to serve will impact her as well. If you are planning on attending, please email chantal@freemason-wa.org. As your Statement of Availability will be due in the Grand Lodge Office by September 1st, you will want to make the time to attend this informational session.

Prayers for Dallas and our Nation

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By Worshipful John Lawson,

Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

"Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed." —Norman Rockwell, Red Mountain Lodge No. 63, Vermont

“Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.”
—Norman Rockwell, Red Mountain Lodge No. 63, Vermont

Our beautiful country of diverse individuals making up a masterpiece of mosaic hope, peace and harmony can on occasions such as these shocking recent tragedies be lost in the horror of blind hatred, pitting us one from the other.

Our democracy requires vigilant effort on each of our parts not as much in the streets of protest but within our minds and hearts to hold fast to those values that we believe in as Americans and to always let love guide our actions and not let the …darkness overcome our light.

Masonic brother Norman Rockwell saw this country with a beautiful perspective and shared his talents in reminding us of the great gift we have been given in America to demonstrate to the world the strength of the one made out of the many. Each with its irreplaceable value to the next.

As we pray for those who have been unjustly killed in these most recent events, let us not forget the Golden Rule that is taught by every race and religion around the world. May the Grand Architect protect us from ourselves in our times of weakness and remind us of our strength and obligations to another.

W.B. John Lawson
Grand Chaplain,
Most Worshipful Grand Lodge
Of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

Anatomy of the Masonic Charge, part 1

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By Worshipful John Lawson,

Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

 

As Grand Chaplain, it is my privilege to focus on spiritual ideals to the masonic brethren in the state of Washington. As I begin this series of communications, let me first say thank you to each of you who have, on your own free will and accord, chosen to walk a different path and accept the clarion call of the fraternity to strive to be a better man. One of the distinctions of our craft is that we do not solicit for members and even at that, when those come to our door of their own volition to petition membership, we take the time to examine each man to determine a proper fit for the order and for the individual. In the end, no brother is within our ranks without a genuine desire nor due examination.

One of the greatest and most rewarding products of our care in membership is that we attract and retain like-minded men who have a love for fraternity and respect for one another. But even having said that, we are not nearly perfect and in a constant state of improvement, striving to chip away the rough edges and make good men better men and nothing is a better reminder of the attributes we strive for than the closing charge at our meetings.

Not all masonic ritual is in cipher nor is it intended to be in secret and that is the case for “the closing charge”. The charge is exactly what it implies, it is a list of action items, those last final instructions, and those strong reminders of who we are as masons and as men and how we should operate throughout our life both in and out of the lodge. It reminds each of us as brothers the opportunities and responsibilities we are obligated to, first to God, then to the craft, then to the brothers, and then to all of mankind. The charge is simple in its construction and it is straightforward in its message, perhaps so much so that we might glaze over its meaning or even be tempted to rush through it on some long meeting nights. I believe that our charge contains the very sum of our craft and its tenets should not only be put to memory by every mason, (officer or not), but should be understood as clear instruction particularly when it comes to our civility with one another and the world.

Having said this, I would like to take the opportunity over these next numbers of communications with you to look line by line to see the charge in detail. As you participate with me, you may find that you have not always given enough thought to its meanings or implications or heard it challenge you to examine your thoughts and actions against its important council. So let’s begin, line by line.

Brethren, we are about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue to mingle again in the outer world among its concerns and employments.”

The very first word, “brethren” reminds us that we are more than an individual, we are part of a brotherhood and that we are not separate but rather we are the sum of all our parts, we are “brethren”, equal and on the level, making up a group of like-minded individuals who want for ourselves and our world, a better version of ourselves and our society.

Outside the doors of the lodge, we are individuals that often break up into small groups or clicks and we create barriers between one another, even enemies. We label ourselves as different from on another based on all manner of social, political, and religious affiliations and we complete against each other for diverse goals which can lead to conflicts. But in the lodge we are to find a place of neutrality that is on the level with one another, a brotherhood of men individually chipping away at the sharp edges of our own rough ashlar and making ourselves living stones suitable for the builders work. We learn that no man is an island and that we both effect and are effected by one another both positively and negatively and that one man’s success or failure affects us all and also that working together, we can accomplish much. That takes a civil mind in which mutual respect and appreciation for the station of another is essential.

When we think of improving our brotherhood, we sometimes forget this and look outwardly to see what or who needs improvement seldom looking inwardly to see that we are a part of that whole. Yet, when we realize that we are part of many others making up a spiritual building suitable for god’s work, it necessarily causes us to look inward and that examination causes us to work to improve ourselves so that we all fit together perfectly. Masonry is a science of perfecting our society and our relationships with one another as a brotherhood and as a fraternity and civility is at its heart.

“Brethren, we are about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue to mingle again in the out world among its concerns and employments.”

Sacred: 1. devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated. 2. entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy.

Retreat: a. The act or process of moving back or away, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant: made a retreat from hectic city life to the country.

Here is a question to ponder as you think of your last lodge meeting.  Is your lodge suitably set aside for the work of spiritual transformation? Perhaps you have never thought of a meeting in this way. Have you ever been involved in a ritual or an initiation in which there is chattering or perhaps side comments, causing chuckles from the sideline in what otherwise might be thought of as a serious undertaking? Have you noticed how it can take away from the focus of what the ritual is trying to help you achieve? The contrast can, on occasion, be stark. On the one hand, a beautiful liturgy written long ago by insightful men in whom we venerate and admire who’s words have been carefully chosen to instill into the mind the most sublime of virtues, while on the other hand profane banter creeps into our work and distracts us from our purpose there, stealing our light and at that moment the solemnity the craft is lost and the lodge begins to behave and function like the profane and mundane world outside its doors. But, have you been to a lodge meeting where everything went smoothly and everyone’s minds were focused on the purpose of that event? Something magic happens if we allow ourselves to be become transformed. It’s a kind of mental-spiritual alchemy of sorts, the strange but wonderful nature of the craft and in that moment the lodge becomes a “sacred retreat of friendship and virtue” with everyone on the level, upright and true; a truly unique space, a sacred retreat and that is what we should be creating each and every lodge meeting.

“Brethren, we are about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue to mingle again in the outer world among its concerns and employments.”

The implication here is a reminder that the world outside of the walls of the lodge sometimes operates on less than the civility we enjoy together. Never before has our lives been so full of stress and distraction even though much of that is self-induced. We have our google calendar at the ready to know exactly where and when we should be at our next activity or meeting and many times end up making everyone else happy at the expense of our own by spreading ourselves thin sometimes making civility a rare commodity. The concerns and employments of the world are endless, like a dog chasing its tail we run. In today’s culture, our homes are mostly blended through divorce and there continues to be social changes, political and economic stresses that effect each of us at every turn. Even the breakfast and dinner table have become a luxury and not a given. Our work is demanding and even after our work life is over our retirement hours fly by with every conceivable good intention swallowing up the sand in our hourglass. We have hundreds of organizations clamoring for our full-time attention of time or money or both and it becomes almost natural to bring that world and it’s liabilities into the lodge.

But the lodge is purposely not that. The lodge is like a school set aside from the maelstrom of the world’s concerns. It affords us by its very structure, a microcosm in which to learn and grow and become better able to interact with one another both inside and outside the lodge.  In fact for much of the history of the lodge it was referred to as the “masonic temple” although that descriptor has lost favor over the years as society continues to secularize itself away from all things religious. The word temple, however is an insightful descriptor of the lodge.  Old English templ, tempel, reinforced in Middle English by Old French temple, both from Latin templum ‘open or consecrated space.’ Almost always, the temple is oriented to heavenly bodies and immolates the patterns and perfect geometric and predictable movements of the heavens. A temple is designed to “reset” one’s course and give perspective and direction in perfect harmony with the universe around it. Albert Pike mixes no words on the subject of the lodge and the public in this comment….

“A man may be a good sort of man in general, and yet a very bad man in particular: good in the Lodge and bad in the world; good in public, and bad in his family; good at home, and bad on a journey or in a strange city. Many a man earnestly desires to be a good Mason. He says so, and is sincere. But if you require him to resist a certain passion, to sacrifice a certain indulgence, to control his appetite at a particular feast, or to keep his temper in a dispute, you will find that he does not wish to be a good Mason, in that particular case; or, wishing, is not able to resist his worse impulses” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 151).

Such is the condition of man who struggles between passion and duty and so we are reminded to….

Forget not those duties that have been so frequently inculcated and so forcefully recommended in this lodge”

The charge implies that the world’s demands can drown out what we have learned to be our obligation in the lodge and that a necessary reminder of a brother’s duties are in order as he leaves the lodge room. Brotherly love, relief and truth can sometimes be hard ideals to find operating in the outer world so we are reminded NOT to forget. We are reminded here that we have a certain responsibility and duties that lays claim to us that asks more than what might otherwise come natural to us. It can also be implied here that we are to remember those tenets that we have learned and that they have application outside our tiled walls because as men, they are sometimes easily forgotten outside our tiled doors.

“Forget not those duties that have been so frequently inculcated and so forcefully recommended in this lodge.

  • Humans can be stubborn creatures, rebellious in nature and free spirited making it difficult to gain favor over our attention. Repetition and illustration are one of the notable teaching tools of the craft. To “inculcate” is to teach (someone) an attitude, idea, or habit by persistent instruction. As much as we would like to think that our bodies are separate from our thinking, the reality is that they are hardwired together. “Whatever a man thinketh, so is he” the Bible teaches and goes on to say, “Do you not know that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”.
  • From a purely biological and physiological sense, we move towards the things we think about the most because we exercise those thoughts and they create larger more complex neuropathways in the brain making certain thoughts and behaviors our “default” behavior or our habits. Just as when we go to the gym to exercise our bodies to build up our muscles, we come to lodge and exercise our minds and improve our thinking and perfect our thoughts and therefore our actions. As we do, those pathways literally increase in size and become our default neuropathways. We do this first out of desire and discipline but soon after frequent inculcation, our thinking and behavior slowly begins to change and we take on the values that have been so forcefully recommended in our lodge. Our minds begin to change and so our thoughts and our actions follow.

Once again, Albert Pike offers these insights….

What is that Thought? It is not Matter, nor Spirit. It is not a Thing; but a Power and Force. I make upon a paper certain conventional marks, that represent that Thought. There is no Power or Virtue in the marks I write, but only in the Thought which they tell to others. I die, but the Thought still lives. It is a Power. It acts on men, excites them to enthusiasm, inspires patriotism, governs their conduct, controls their destinies, disposes of life and death. The words I speak are but a certain succession of particular sounds, that by conventional arrangement communicate to others the Immaterial, Intangible, Eternal Thought. The fact that Thought continues to exist an instant, after it makes its appearance in the soul, proves it immortal: for there is nothing conceivable that can destroy it. The spoken words, being mere sounds, may vanish into thin air, and the written ones, mere marks, be burned, erased, destroyed: but the THOUGHT itself lives still, and must live on forever. A Human Thought, then, is an actual EXISTENCE, and a FORCE and POWER, capable of acting upon and controlling matter as well as mind. Is not the existence of a God, who is the immaterial soul of the Universe, and whose THOUGHT, embodied or not embodied in His WORD, is an Infinite Power, of Creation and production, destruction and preservation, quite as comprehensible as the existence of a Soul, of a Thought separated from the Soul, of the Power of that Thought to mold the fate and influence the Destinies of Humanity” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 573)

In our next installment, we will look at the four specific virtues that we should focus on as we walk through the outer door into the world, being prudent, temperate, diligent and discreet.

 

Most fraternally and may the Grand Architect add his blessing,

 

Worshipful John Lawson

Grand Chaplain of the

Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

Featured photo source: Wikipedia Commons

History: An Exercise in Humility

As I said in my last entry to this blog, my goal in writing these blogs is ‘reclaiming our story’. We have seen that many of the narratives that currently define our Fraternity in the common mind are in fact fictions written by either those who would exploit the Craft for profit (literature and movies) or our enemies (The Protocols). That said a reasonable man could see some small truth in some of these myths about the Craft. So how do we, as Masons, know what is true and what is false, or more importantly, I feel, what is important and what is not?

I’d like to first talk about the something that will at first seem unrelated, but I hope to use this story to illustrate the problem at hand.

image 1It’s hard to imagine someone who has not heard of the Nile River, so important to Biblical stories and to the evolution of Western Civilization. What is even harder to believe is that the source of the Nile was not determined until 1858! As you can see from the map the Nile is created from two rivers, the Blue and White Niles (Nile means river). When we talk about the source or origin of the Nile, what do we mean? Most of the water that feeds the Nile comes from the Blue Nile, BUT the farthest point of origin derives from the White Nile. Which is it? If you want to understand the Nile thoroughly you would have to study all sources equally, and weigh the impact of each river proportionately.

History is much like a river, the main story being comprised of many ‘tributaries’ each contributing something. If you wish a cursory understanding then the major contributors will be your focus, but you may choose to pursue smaller, more distant and exotic sources if you have a particular interest in a singular aspect of History.

History like science has rules, or a method, that governs what is accepted as history and what is not. Like science history relies on data, some of which is scientific data like archeology and carbon dating. Unlike scientific data historical data might have a less rigorous pedigree, like eyewitness accounts and source documents generated by humans. This historical data can be accepted on equal terms with scientific data. Historians are however just as strict in the analysis of data as any scientist, and often have to work much harder to determine what data is valid. The history of history is filled with errors made by people to eager to accept data that supports a popular belief, and because of that mainstream historians are very careful making interpretations.

As Freemasons we are not exempt from the temptations of our Crafts mythology, which runs close to, sometimes parallel with, recorded and accepted history. This is, in my opinion, no excuse for lazy or indulgent research that jumps to exciting and aggrandizing conclusions.

A good example of this can be found at Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh Scotland. I visited Rosslyn Chapel with my wife in 2008 and was amazed at the intricate carvings in and on the Chapel that have stimulated so many theories about the Templars, the discovery of America and the link between the Templars and the Freemasons. I do not have the space to go into all these theories here, but there is one I would like to explore as an example. The Chapel was dedicated in 1450 CE to St Mathew, almost 150 years after the Templars were arrested in France, October 13, 1307 CE. Freemasonry commonly accepts the date of June 24th, 1717 as its nominal start date, a little more that 250 years after the Chapel was erected. On one of the outside walls of the Chapel is a carving that many Masons will recognize (wink). image 2In this carving there seems to be a blind folded man, kneeling with a cable around his neck and behind him a man holding the cable. Both seem to wear the Templar cross. Now, I live by the same oath as you, so I will have to assume you get the importance of this image (see photo). I also have to add that the stone that the Chapel is made from has degraded over the centuries, which makes this image a bit tough to see. Whole books have been written that hang their evidentiary hat on this engraving. At first glance this carving does seem to prove in the minds of many that there is a link between the Templars Knights and Masons.

image 3I would like to start by saying, I believe this link is worth researching, not that I accept it as fact. Here are the facts that support this possibility. The Templars had many Bailies, local offices, and source of the term “the whole bailiwick”. These served as local centers of operations. In Scotland there were several centers, but one in particular was in Balantrodach Scotland (modern Temple Scotland), which is only 7 miles from Rosslyn Chapel.

While everyone focuses on the Templar Knights, as romantic warriors, the Templars possessed many craftsmen and specialist. Everyone knows they had accountants, being bankers, but few consider the farriers, armorers, carpenters and yes, masons that would have been required to keep the order functioning. History tells us that the Templars lasted longer in Scotland than other countries because the whole kingdom was essentially excommunicated after Robert Bruce, later King of Scotland, murdered his primary competitor for the throne in a church. This allowed the members of the order to survive, (i.e., avoid arrest and torture) much longer than on the continent.

If there were stonemasons at Temple Scotland, and if they survived its likely they would have eventually assimilated into the local masons guilds.

image 4From about the time the Templars were arrested until the end of the 14th century Europe was devastated by climate change, leading to famine, and the Black Death. The population plummeted and the rules of guild membership were relaxed, as were all rules of social and economic mobility. The local guilds, guilds that would have been close enough to Rosslyn to be affected, would have been open to receiving new, skilled masons. These ex-Templar masons may well have brought their initiation rituals with them and these rituals assimilated into guild ritual. Over time those rituals may well have propagated throughout the guilds that evolved into Speculative Masonry. It’s important to note, to the propagation theory, that Rosslyn and Temple Scotland are a day’s ride from Edinburgh, the seat of Scottish power and economics for centuries.

This possibility, remote though it might be, would be a minor tributary into the great river that is Freemasonry. It seems more likely than warrior knights, often born to noble classes would become craftsmen, essentially a step down in social rank. It would also make the connection between the Freemasons and the Templars a backwater of history and not the main thrust. I think this idea is worth exploring. I think this line of thought shows that jumping to the conclusion that the Knights Templar as a whole organization became Freemasons, based on the one carving is a less likely scenario than the one I just offered.

Before you write me telling me there are many other reasons, found in Scotland, to believe the Templars are the antecedents to the Freemasons I ask that you include the source documents that prove it. The fact that something “could be true” is not proof that it is true. Even the idea I expressed above is pure speculation based on loose facts and is as likely to be false as true. Before I would ever state it as fact, I would need a lot more research.

Lets say for a moment that my theory, the one I just put forth, is true. Is it important? Would it change the kind of Mason you are? Would it change anything? Its only real value would be in adding a small chapter to the story of the Templars and the Freemasons, that’s it. What is important? That Shriner hospital, that reading program, that time when you could have chosen the wrong thing and because you are a Mason you chose the right thing. That’s what is important. Not some distant event that aggrandizes our egos and does little to improve the world.

History supports the idea that Freemasonry evolved as a part of European history, not as its main event. We are as much influenced by the events of European history, as we are an influencing agent. In my opinion our ascension as a Fraternity is linked to many factors such as the catastrophe of the Black Death and the social freedoms acquired during the reformation and renascence. Our mysticism and esoterica appeared at the same time in history as they appeared in European society, much of which is the result of the fall of Constantinople creating a great diaspora of knowledge. In my next blog I will address the arrival of many of the influences of our Craft’s mysticism and science, and show that we did not bring them through time to reveal them to Europeans, but rather that we acquired them just like everyone else. What makes Freemasonry important to history is that we provided a Tyled hall, where men, under oath to keep each others secrets, could freely discuss ideas that might well have brought them to the inquisition, the hangman’s noose or the guillotine. This Brethren is no small thing, and something that should cause us to feel proud of our heritage.

Masonry Has the Answer

There has scarcely been a time in world history that man has not waged war against his brother or his neighbor. A sad fact that no one can dispute. But what of the great religions of the world?Surely they must contain within their pages the remedy for such continual conflict. Ironically it has been said and sadly accurately that more blood has been shed in the name of God than for any other single reason in all the history of mankind. How can this be, we rightly ask? So much destruction, hatred, and death from the now more than the estimated 4,200 religions in the world today that ironically advocate love and peace! In fact that very observation and question such as this is at the top of the list for those who have chosen to give up on a god altogether. After all, just pick up a paper from any shore and you will find conflict between one man’s god and another’s.

Do we as masons have an answer to this vexing conundrum that has plagued mankind and brought it to the brink of disaster over and over again? At the quiet heart of masonry, I say, yes! Thank God yes, we as masons, who have nobly been given charge over the repository of ancient wisdom and been given this peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols that transforms good men into better men and it has within its tents all the light that the world needs to free itself from the bondage and blindness of dogma. In our teachings we are shown the universality in which all men can unite. As MWB Albert Pike states so eloquently on page 52 of Morals and Dogma, “….its principles are as wide as the world and as high as the sky. Nature and Revelation blend in its faith; its morality is rooted in the order of the world, and its roof is the blue vault above. 

He continues with this statement which even today has been a reoccurring concern in our own Washington State Masonic legislation in regard to the Volume of Sacred Law or Holy Bible; “…Like everything else in Masonry, the Bible, so rich in symbolism, is itself a symbol – that is, a part taken for the whole… Thus, but the very honor which Masonry pays to the Bible, it teaches us to revere every Book of Faith in which man has found light and help and hope. In a Lodge consisting of Jews the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the Altar, and in a Lodge in the land of Mohammed the Koran may be used, according to the law of the mother Grand Lodge. But whether it be the Gospel of the Christian, the Book of Law of the Hebrew, the Koran of the Muslim, or the Vedas of the Hindu, it everywhere Masonically symbolizes the Will of God reveled to man, expressing such faith and vision as he has found in the fellowship of the seekers and servants of God. 

At once masonry answers the question of universality and brotherly love. Masonry offers the brothers the freedom of self-expression of personal ideals while at the same time, affording a common alter with fraternal ties in which every bother is accepted of their own understanding and yet not just accepted but his right to those beliefs are held to be sacred itself. How the world could profit from these timeless and powerful lessons! Pike goes on, “Such a fact, such a spirit, helps us to see what the Religion of Masonry really is, prophesying an order of fraternity not yet attained, a spirit of fellowship not yet realized; a distant but slowly dawning day when man will discover that humanity is one in nature, in need, in faith and duty and destiny, and that God is the Father of us all. (pp.93-95)

In these previous lines, we are reminded that this is not an arrival but a journey, an evolution both within ourselves as an example to our brothers, but then also to the brotherhood as an example to mankind as a whole. Imagine a world in which freemasonry was looked to as the path to peace, to security, to happiness. Imagine how the great gifts of masonry’s wisdom would one day be seen as the trestle board that leads humanity to balanced blueprint of harmony and unity. The blueprint for a world that although diverse in culture, language, and beliefs, can find within its tenets the strength for unity instead of war and destruction. 

It begins with each of us, allowing the craft to transform us from good men to better ones, an alchemy of spirit, setting our personal agendas and egos aside, becoming light and shining that light within our personal sphere of influence at home, at work, and within our lodges. Associating and illustrating through our personal actions both small and great, masonry’s square and compass with the attributes of brotherly love expressed in tolerance and understanding for everyone regardless of personal beliefs, expressed in relief, in the knowledge that everyone is worthy of our kind office and finally, expressed in truth, respecting and aiding the seeker to find a common light along our individual paths. These fundamental truths set us apart from every other organization that has ever existed on the face of the earth. We are more than just a fraternal order, we are the answer the world so desperately needs today and we are more relevant today than we have ever been in history. Let us set to work brothers.

 

John Lawson Profile Pic 2016May God add His light.

Most Fraternally,  

Worshipful Brother John Lawson

Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

 Featured photo source, labelled for reuse.

A Message to My Senior Brothers

For me, the best part about Grand Lodge Annual Communication is the new people you meet and the conversations you have. However, I’ve noticed a probable cause for the cultural divide between older and younger masons that might explain weaker than desired retention rates of young Freemasons.

When I signed on to serve on the Technology Committee this year, I asked MW Jim Mendoza to come to my office and talk through the goals of the Grand Lodge’s entire digital exposure. To accomplish these goals, we built a strategy that produces and distributes content and media that speaks to answering the questions or opening a door to what young men are looking for in Freemasonry. One of the key components we found was that young men often come to Freemasonry seeking mentorship from older members.

I’ve been a Freemason for nearly seven years, been to hundreds of lodge meetings around the state, two leadership conferences and four Grand Lodge Annual Communications. From these experiences, I’ve noticed a theme: The older masons are not truly engaging the new recruits. This has been my personal experience and also noticed in my observations.

Now, this is most likely a problem with the entire generation to which Masons who are older belong, but this post is to remind you that you’re needed, but perhaps not in the way you think.

Every few years, my father-in-law can’t help but give me “Personal Feedback.” Most of the time I hate it, but one thing he told me several years back has always stood out, and has really shaped my interactions with other people, especially in social situations: Stop talking so much about yourself and start asking people questions.

To my senior brothers, I apologize for my bluntness, but I feel like this has to be said. Stop making every conversation about the stories of days gone by. Stop seeking out conversations with other senior members that end up becoming a contest of who has the better story of yesteryear. A young mason will listen quietly and politely, for a time, but eventually they will feel that they’re either stepping into a retirement home, or that their youth and inexperience leaves them with nothing to contribute to the conversations at hand. When this plays out, they will stop showing up.

From my personal experience, I love the senior members in my lodge, but other than listening quietly to them telling me or each other oft-told stories of things that happened before I was born, and the pleasantries of “hello, how are you?”, I sadly don’t have much of a relationship with any of them, despite the fact that I want to.

Here’s the thing about advice, wisdom, and stories that matter — the cliche is true. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. The only way to communicate this care is to ask questions.

When I first realized the importance of my father-in-law’s advice to adjust the focus of my social discourse, I took a moment to think back on the person I knew who did it best. In my case, it was a friend I had in high school named Trevor. Trevor could meet and introduce himself to anyone, ask how their day was, and truly listen for a personal fact he could ask more about. He would then continue to just ask intelligent follow-up questions. This method both catches people off-guard and opens them up at the same time.

When I tried to replicate this practice, I was surprised with how easy it is to do and the kind of relationships it creates, so I thought I’d take a moment to give tips to my brothers on how to engage the younger members and in so doing build a stronger, longer lasting fraternity.

  1. Go deeper than small talk. Yes, it takes years to truly build a relationship with someone, but the foundations can be laid in just a few minutes if you’re really looking. I’ve nicknamed an easy discipline that I often do the ‘five question drill down’. The basic concept of this discipline is to casually listen to a person sharing a story or engaging in small talk. Remember one unique thing they mentioned, wait until they’re done speaking, and then ask them a series of questions (5 or so) learn more about that thing. It normally plays out similar to the following:

Rob: “So yeah, I’m going to hoopfest in Spokane this weekend, it should be a lot of fun.”

Me: “Are you playing on a team, or just watching?”

Rob: “My family has played in it every year for about 10 years. Myself, my brothers, and my dad.”

Me: “That sounds like so much fun, and it’s really good that your dad is still playing basketball. Is he in good shape?”

Rob: “Surprisingly so! He’s had a few knee surgeries in the past few years, but he’s been good at keeping up with his physical therapy, and keeps on getting back out there… He actually used to play in college so I think it keeps him young.”

Me: “That’s great! What college did he go to?”

Rob: “He went to Oregon State, and he played a little bit of pro basketball in France afterward.”

Me: “Wow, that’s great! Did he meet your mom at Oregon State or did that happen later?”

Rob: “Actually he met her in France; she was studying abroad. But they were only together for about 5 years, so I guess romances abroad burn bright and fast.”

Me: “Well the Master calls, I suppose we better open this Lodge. I’d love to get your number so we can meet up for lunch sometime.”

… And that, my brothers, is a sample of what the 5 question drill down looks like, and it works. Now I have tons of things to ask Rob about at lunch, such as his relationship with his brothers, who they are and what they do, where his parents are living now, and even heavy questions like if it was hard living in a split family. And of course, last but not least, how well he and his family did at Hoopfest. All of these follow-up questions show that you were listening, you care, and you want to invest in them. And if they feel invested in, they will give back and keep on coming back.

  1. Don’t let time get in your way. At the end of the day, getting to know someone is an investment of more than just time… So it’s important not to limit it BY time. Often times, younger men need to be reassured that they have the floor and that people are actually interested in what they have to say. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what exactly it is they do for a living. If they’re talking about it, it means they’re passionate about it. So if at all possible, have the patience to truly listen, and ask relevant questions for clarification. We’re humans, not dogs, and we can learn new tricks in our old age. The first step to doing so is believing you can and making that effort.
  1. Follow up. When I was Senior Warden, I took it upon myself to meet all visitors to my lodge for lunch over the course of the following month. I have to say that not only are those guys I met with back then almost all in the line to become officers now, but many of them are some of my closest friends now. It’s amazing that the investment of an hour-long lunch yields returns that last years.

Brothers, the bottom line is that we 20- and 30-somethings are joining Freemasonry for many reasons. One of the most important is to build relationships with older, wiser men like yourselves. However, we can’t do that if you don’t take the time to get to know us.

These relationships are two-way streets, and we need you guys to engage us young guys. Don’t rest on the laurels of your stories. Rather, use your stories for a good purposes. Use them to give needed advice, support or affirmation to a brother whom you have gotten to know. And the only way to do that is to learn to start asking questions that are born out of a listening ear and an open heart. This is the best contribution and legacy you can make for the future of Freemasonry, because it will impact generations to come.

A Message from the Grand Chaplain, in the wake of the attack in Orlando

Brethren all,

As the new Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, I take no pleasure to mourn with you and all of our citizens around the entire country over the senseless loss of life in Orlando Florida during this last weekend in the largest mass shooting in American history; a crime of hate and terrorism. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and loved ones targeted for their personal choices. When there is fear, superstition, and ignorance, the three great enemies of man, there is the greatest of needs for the wisdom and leadership that our ancient craft can provide to our society through each of us. That isn’t always accomplished by great orations nor of national actions alone, but in our daily small exchanges in the marketplace of ideas, in conversation, in the lunchroom, the drinking fountain, the dinner table, in our workplace, parking lot conversations, and even in our own minds during our quiet times of contemplation Our great fraternity is the sum of our parts and it is in times such as these that our values and our tenets become the most important and need to be checked and reinforced.

As a brother, we are obligated to bring light into our world, to square our actions, to walk uprightly and be on the level with every person, holding no prejudice and illustrating through our lives the great principles of our craft and BEING THE DIFFERENCE whenever and wherever opportunity avails itself to us. I implore each of you to shine your masonic light with all of those within your circle of influence. Let your wise council balanced between the two pillars of mercy and severity, guiding your thoughts and your tongue to offer our unique masonic message of brotherly love, relief and truth into your personal conversations wherever that may be.

May each of us hold true to our obligations and be guided by the golden rule that we should love one another, to avoid divisive conversation and uphold the rights of every human being, regardless of our individual choices and personal beliefs. Let each of us as masons be even more so in these times, the light and hope to a world that too often seems lost and dark and driven through blind hatred to such tragedy. Let us be warriors against the darkness first in our own minds and hearts and then by example to those around us demonstrate the acceptance of every human being to live in peace and harmony.  

Image-9561585-261641486-2-WebSmall_0_f9f094143c066e423ddf5edc46d3b827_1-picsayCivility is the mark of enlightenment and the fruit of a balanced mind. The altar of freemasonry is strong enough to be encircled by men of all faiths and persuasions, making us a unique example to the world and each of us have the opportunity and an obligation to take that unity out into the world.

Above all, be ye all of one mind, live in peace and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with you and bless you.

Most Fraternally,

Worshipful Brother John Lawson

Grand Chaplain,

Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

Freemasonry and the Next 50 Years

Today officially begins the 2016 Annual Grand Lodge Stated Communication, which is one of the best times for Freemasons to network, learn from and grow with each other. I hope this post will be food for both thought and discussion as we look toward the future, what it may look like, and what role Freemasonry has to play. These opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Grand Lodge of Washington. If you wish to engage in a discussion or debate on these thoughts, I welcome conversation on my twitter account @danieldone or in person if you can catch me. Also you’ll all notice that I link to Jason Silva’s Youtube account a lot. You all should subscribe. He’s great.

Here’s a kick off thought:

I subscribe to the theory that we’re in the middle of the greatest leap forward in our evolution as humans since the agricultural revolution over 10,000 years ago. This leap is fueled by the digital revolution and is fundamentally changing not only how we as a species live day-to-day, but also how we see ourselves and who we are at our core. This transition is as big of a turning point in our history as the events that inspired the story the Garden of Eden. And, in order to venture into this brave new phase of human history, we need Freemasonry more than ever, because it frames a universal code of conduct for those who know that their work and actions transform themselves, their families, their neighbors, their countries, and their world in real time.

Let me explain…

Biologically, we’re primates.

There is less of a difference genetically between us, chimps and bonobos than there is between African Elephants and Indian Elephants. But what makes humans truly different is our ability to work as a group, and understand and empathize with other individuals we’ve never met. We can form strong, yet flexible networks that allow us to work as a collective in order to not only complete great wonders of the world and build empires, but also to discover, conceive of and refine our knowledge and understanding of the world. That ability to work together is at a tipping point of exponential growth due to the real-time connection that the internet has given us. It may be that digital technology is, in fact, the greatest democratizing force in human history, and will change our biology and neurology in a greater way than the discovery of fire.

All humanity is a massive organism.

At a neurological level, we’re entirely the sum of the knowledge and influences of people the in our lives such as our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, our teachers our friends, and the millions of other people who contribute to every article we read, TV show we watch and ad we subliminally see. Our bodies are sustained by an infrastructure built by hundreds of millions of people working together for the betterment of the whole. We need that infrastructure and the people who made it as much as a finger requires the hand, the arm, the heart and the lungs all working together in order to move and function. While some of us may prefer to live in a cabin in the woods, the truth is, no human can survive without others, period. (In fact, I even question whether or not humanity is something that we grow into through connection with other humans.) But if you look at the the way in which people connect with those closest to them, almost like individual brain cells forming their own micro-networks, you can get an idea for how we’re players in several different networks, at work and at home. If you zoom out and look at Earth, all humanity is a massive organism, and we’re getting more and more connected as we turn ourselves into a super organism.

In fact, that superorganism is entirely augmented by our tools and technology, which is forms like an exoskeleton, and is as important to who we are as a hermit crab’s shell.

We chose the Tree of Knowledge.

I grew up as a non-denominational Protestant along with about 58% of the US. But at the University of Washington, I studied Comparative History of Ideas and had the opportunity to study several religions. One topic that had particular significance to me in this context was Jewish history. I discovered that one of the hardest things for a traditional American Evangelical to correctly understand is the systems of metaphor, meaning and poetry that was infused into the many of the early Old Testament books of the Bible. To put my opinion simply, I believe the Bible is true, but we’re too stupid to truly understand it.

So I take stories like the Garden of Eden seriously, but in a somewhat untraditional way. In particular, I look at the choice made by humans to opt for the Tree of Knowledge over the Tree of Life. Once we as humans learned to cook our meat and increase the protein we can absorb, thus expanding our brain size, meat became necessary to our existence. The same is true with farming, language, arithmetic — we become dependent on those ideas and can never fully unlearn if we are to survive.

The moment each of these ideas were introduced to human networks, we were socially, mentally and even biologically changed forever. A great case in point is smart phones. How many of us would ever voluntarily get rid of our smartphone once we’ve experienced the way in which improves our access to people and information?

This essentially changes our paradigm of evolution away from relying on genetic mutation over generations in order to evolve new tools that are part of our bodies. Now our minds have allowed us to evolve our technology as an extension of our bodies.

Technology, beginning with sticks and stones, infects us as humans and carries with it nearly infinite unknown costs and benefits. These result in progress, as well as war, famine, disease and death. We only hope that with enough collaboration, the sum of humanity can come up with fixes to fend off those “horsemen of the apocalypse” before they destroy us. I think we have a good shot.

An idea is the most resilient parasite.

Evolution is no longer biological for us.

There is a feedback loop between our tools and ourselves, causing what is called a dialectic, which is forcing us to evolve. Operative masons once built cities, cathedrals, keeps and castles that shaped culture, and you had better believe they did it on purpose. They understood that architecture forms the exoskeleton of societies, and influences how those societies function, link, feel, and controls their future.

Freemasons expand that idea that to everything that is man made has a similar impact… We’re all engaged in the transcendence of our humanity.

Our tools are an extension of our body.

I was spellbound by a TED talk given by the MIT Hugh Herr on bionics. Herr lost both his legs to frostbite in the 80s. In the talk, he said, “I didn’t view my body as broken. I reasoned that a human being can never be “broken” but rather that “technology is broken.” The insight of that quote alludes to the foundational philosophy of Millennials. By framing it in that context, he is recognizing that his body is nothing more than technology, and so the inverse is also true. Technology is the extension of the body.

This premise was known by ancient swordsmen, who taught the sword is the extension of the arm, and also by Steve Jobs, who famously called the computer the “bicycle of the mind”. It was certainly known by Larry Page and Sergey Brin and their team at Google. The refinement of algorithms such as theirs is nothing more than techno-sociological ergonomics. In other words, it’s refining itself to better serve our needs and desires as humans.

Given that now we produce more content and knowledge in an hour than in most centuries of our past, and that nearly all of this is either stored or shared through the internet. Meanwhile, the internet has effectively become a literal collective consciousness, and that “sum of all knowledge and understanding” can actually be quantified by the weight of those electrons. The most humbling thing is that it’s smaller than the smallest possible grain of sand.

What is the collective consciousness?

The idea of collective consciousness has been around for centuries and has been studied in the context of shared experiences in both space and time. A concert, a revolution, a tsunami, a war is something that has an impact on such a large group of people that that memory is shared amongst an entire group of people and is often remembered for generations, or even millennia.
Ritual has the same effect on the human brain as events. It’s something that is shared throughout generations and forms the mortar that binds groups together which is why we use it in Freemasonry. Ritual, however can be engineered, just like cities, and purposefully have a direct impact on the societies and and individuals they produce. Being aware of that engineering effect thus, could be considered collective self consciousness.

Today, thanks to technology and education, we have over a billion people connected to the internet, which allows them to connect in real time and collaborate on projects large and small. This means that from a macro level, if the entire human race is an evolving brain, it would be just a few short years away from being able to think and act as one in our own best interest. However, in order to do that, we’re departing from our old tools of communication; we’ve passed pen and paper, the printing press, Radio, and TV (which are all mono-directional). Social media gives a voice to all, but it still requires an interface. We now know that within the next 50 years, communication and connection to the internet will be integrated into our minds to one degree or another.

The integration and rapid evolution of digital technology into a culture, therefore hyper-charges our individual and collective quest to be more human.

The Precipice.

Last week, an article was published in TechCruch on search engine algorithms’ artificial intelligence called “Deep Brain.” There is a great summary in that article about the progression of artificial intelligence. Now again, if our tools are just an extension of our bodies, and the tools we use together like the roads, trains, and the electrical grid are the skeleton of our collective organism, then the internet and all of its information, programs and robots are in fact an extension of humanity itself. Now predictions are that our machines will be as intelligent as the sum of all human brains put together by 2060. Once we reach that point, there is no turning back. All rules are off. We will have left Eden again. Or, just maybe, we might be returning to a new Eden where war, famine, disease and death are finally eradicated by our own will and power. We will see.

Why we are “Free-Masons”, really?

You might have noticed that Elias Ashmole’s first mention of Freemasonry was “Free-Mason” in his diary in 1646. It is so important to realize that the birth of “Free-Masonry” was in the time just before the explosion of knowledge and invention that was the English Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. I believe the realization was due in part to a recognition that Masonry studied the fact that our environments shape society, and had studied this for centuries. Because of that power, it behooves good men to hold themselves and others to standards of building societies for good and the betterment of all and not our own selfish ends. With the scientific revolution, it became clear that we are all builders in our own way, and have that same power to change the world through our creativity and workmanship.

So moving forward into a world where we are about to breach the gates of everything that is possible, one thing will remain the same, human nature. Freemasonry speaks directly to the core of what it means to be human and reorients our minds to what is truly important amid the chaos of change, not in resistance to it. So I don’t have any conclusion other than big changes for humanity are here, and even bigger changes are coming. Let us be a force for the good and the betterment of humanity as we always have, but let’s find out how to do it in a new way.

I’d like to conclude not with another Jason Silva video, but with Charlie Chaplin’s speech in “The Great Dictator”. A few years back, someone brushed it off the shelves and added modern b-roll to illustrate his points. I think it illustrates exactly where we are at. I hope you all enjoyed the read, and I look forward to discussions.

Reclaiming Our Story: How Fiction Can Be Dangerous!

Last summer at the Grand Communication in Kennewick our then newly made Deputy Grand Master Jim Mendoza approached me about being a part of the Grand Lodge Technology Committee during his year as our Grand Master. He explained that he was looking for someone who could provide content for the Grand Lodge’s web presence. During subsequent conversations, I learned the RWB Jim had two primary goals for the content he wanted me to provide. First, reclaiming our story. As many of you know Freemasonry has become the subject of many books, movies and television shows and usually our beloved Craft is presented in ways that are either unsubstantiated or blatantly untrue. RWB Jim expressed his interest in taking our story back, and correcting these many misunderstandings. This is a subject I am VERY passionate about, and look forward to exploring with you. The second thrust RWB Jim wants to develop is a fulfillment of the promises made in our first-degree initiation, that we would receive education in the moral and symbolic elements of the Craft. The second goal will be crucial, I think, to the successful achievement of the first. I will need to show the truth of our fraternity is at least as interesting and valuable as the false history of our Fraternity.

So, let us begin.

I will start with the first goal, reclaiming our story. To do that I will begin by exploring how we lost ownership of our own history, in the eyes of the public. I will show how a story has developed about Freemasonry over the centuries since the Grand Lodge of England formed on St John’s Day 1717. I will list some key elements in the development of that narrative and then I will show how that false history has done real harm to the world and the Craft. Hopefully I will demonstrate why we must be critical of claims about the Craft’s history and why its in our best interest to engage in the public dialog about who and what we really are as Freemasons.

image 1One of the earliest bits of historical fiction, which feeds the modern conspiracy theories, comes from 1737 when Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsey (pictured) gave his famous oration in France. In it he implied the Freemasonry descended from the crusader knights. Many have interpreted his statements to mean the Knights Templars, even though he spoke more directly about Knights Hospitaller. Despite the belief of many modern Masons that it is true we are descended from the Templars there is no documented connection between the historical crusading Templars and Freemasons. This author is aware of only one piece of ‘circumstantial’ evidence that hints at a possible connection, (not necessarily descent from) the Templars. That is a carving on Rosslyn Chapel that seems to resemble elements of a Masonic ritual. I will explore this idea later in another blog. I realize the statement that there is no concrete connection from the Templars to Freemasonry will cause some controversy within our Fraternity, but I challenge anyone to supply a historical document that proves a direct descent from the Templars to the Freemasons.

We are all familiar with the golden age of Freemasonry, the years building up to the American Revolution. Many of our founding fathers were Freemasons and we can easily see traits in the original design of our democracy that seem very likely to have started in Masonic Lodges. There is no concrete evidence, however, that the American Revolution was the result of a specific Masonic agenda, but there is clear evidence that some of the men that led that revolution were influenced by Masonic ideals. This has led many to suppose the United States of America is the product of a Masonic conspiracy.

image 2Following close on the heels of the American Revolution the French revolution sought to bring democracy to the French state. Again, many of the men who were involved in the French revolution were Freemasons however; it is unlikely that the fraternity organized the revolt. The best evidence of this is the simple fact that at the time of the revolution in France many of the Freemasons were of the nobility or were landed gentry, two groups who were targeted by the revolution. That fact aside, many accused our fraternity of being at the epicenter of the revolution and thereby responsible at least in part for the terror that followed.

One of the earliest attacks on the Craft came from a man named Abbe Larudan, who in 1747 claimed that Oliver Cromwell formed Freemasonry for the sole purpose of overthrowing the British monarchy. This theory was later built on by Abbe Barruel (1741-1820) who claimed that Freemasonry working with the Bavarian Illuminati had caused the French revolution. The Illuminati was a real organization founded on May 1, 1776. The Illuminati order was formed with the goal of “opposing superstition, obscurantism, and religious influence over public life and abuses of state power. The Illuminati ceased to exist to history in 1787, though Burruel and others have kept the fear of the Illuminati alive to the modern day in various conspiracy theories that link Freemasonry and the Illuminati in an alliance to dominate the world.

image 3These accusations might well have died out if not for a very unfortunate lapse in judgment on the part of some Freemasons in America. A man named William Morgan, who was most likely a Freemason threatened to publish an expose about the secrets of the Craft. It is likely that a group of Freemasons murdered Morgan in an attempt to prevent him from publishing. While some Masons were convicted of kidnapping no one was charged with murder, as no body was ever found that could be confirmed as Morgan (even though a body was identified and buried under his name, there was some doubt if the body was in fact Morgan’s). This story feeds the public suspicion of Freemasons, seeming to prove the earlier conspiratorial theories in the eyes of many. So strong were the anti-masonic feelings that in 1828 Americas first third political party was formed, the Anti-Masonic Party. This party lasted until 1838 when it merged with the Whig party. Freemasonry in America suffered during the years that followed. In New York, the state in which the Morgan Affair occurred, the number of Lodges dropped from 227 Lodges in 1827 to only 41 in 1835.

The next major contributor to the conspiracy narrative came in 1919, from Russia. In an effort to justify the pogroms against the Jews in Europe a fictitious document called The Protocols of the Elders of Zionwas written and distributed throughout Europe and the world. This document claimed that the Jewish Elders and Freemasons were working together to dominate the world. To be clear this document has been completely discredited; but like all rumors, found a ready audience. It is clear that Hitler used The Articles as a foundation document for his final solution. The horror unleashed by Hitler does not need to be rehashed here, but this terrible period of history does show that false histories can be very dangerous things especially when they feed already dark prejudices.

image 4Now we come to the modern era. In 1983 something happened that many people would have missed. A book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail written by Michael Biagent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln claimed that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married, had children and that a secret order The Priory of Sionand the Knights Templar had protected that secret and the blood line. The book claims that many of the Royals of Europe carried the blood of Jesus through the Merovingian family.

Partially inspired by Holy Blood, Holy Grail author Dan Brown in 2003 published The Da Vinci Code, a novel and later a movie that fictionalized the theories in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. In the closing scenes the Grail, the Templars and the Masons come together in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.

In 2004 a movie starring Nicholas Cage, National Treasure, claimed that Freemasons had descended from the Templars. These works of fiction, drawing on lies and inaccuracies of the past, have unfortunately become the popular narrative on the history of Freemasonry. Im sure we have all had the experience of being asked if these stories are true.

So whats the harm? Well, I think there are two big problems for Freemasonry in these false histories. First, many men are coming to our order BECAUSE they believe the conspiracy theories and when they find they are false they lose interest. As bad as that is its not the worst consequence.

Late in 2015 Wisconsin law enforcement prevented a Jihadist attack on a Masonic Center. Within radical jihadist groups The Articles of Zion are still thought to be true. Many radical Christian writers, likewise, use the theories put forth in the Protocols as a basis as an attack on Freemasonry. Combined with movies like the Da Vinci Code and National Treasure that seem to support this idea, an atmosphere of hate and fear can evolve among those ready to believe the worst rumors. To make matters even worse there is no shortage of Masons who advocate for many of the unsubstantiated theories that feed this madness, a fact, which lends validity to our attackers.

History shows that speculative Freemasonry has existed in some form since the 1640s in England. Since its formation Freemasonry has influenced the men who influenced the world. Our beloved order has never manipulated world events, but rather we have taken good men, men destined to shape history, and helped them develop the moral and ethical character that enabled them to bring Light to a very dark world. As their inheritors we owe it to them and the future of mankind to stand for the truth of who and what we are. Fantastic histories about our past, while fun to indulge in, can threaten our future and unfortunately influence our evolution. Freemasonry is a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Do not confuse allegory for history, and symbols for truth. They are tools to communicate morals and ethics. Our true history continues to unfold because of the hard work of serious historians, and the truth is at least as interesting as any fiction created in the minds of those who would discredit us or those who would profit from exploiting misunderstanding.

My Brethren you once asked for Light in Masonry. I challenge you now to become that Light you sought, stand for truth and help our Grand Master reclaim our story!

Next time we will explore some of our real history that you may not know!

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